Before using a LTO, it needs to be formatted. When Canister detects a non-formatted tape it will prompt to format the tape.

Tape Initialization

Up to LTO-9, tapes do not require initialization. When inserting a new LTO-9 tape into a drive for the first time, the LTO drive will spool through the whole tape. This process can take considerable time. If you do no have this luxury, some vendors like Symply sell pre-initialized media.

If your drive is of an older generation that LTO-9, you can simply insert a tape and continue with formatting.


Each LTO tape needs to be formatted before usage, kind of like with a hard disk. If a tape is not yet formatted, Canister will prompt you to do so:

Each LTFS-formatted tape requires a name and may use an optional serial. A serial must be 6 characters.

If you do not have a system in place to track tapes using the serial, we suggest allowing Canister to prepopulate the serial using the date. This simple mechanism results in a value like 230504 for May 4th, 2023, and gives context for when a tape was created.

Erasing Tapes

LTFS requires a tape to be unmounted before erasing a tape. If Erase is disabled, first eject the tape.

Due to LTO's linear nature, files written on tape cannot be deleted without erasing the whole tape. Erasing a tape can be done in-app through the LTO menu:

Renaming Tapes

This feature is not supported on Canister for Windows, yet.

As of Canister for Mac 23.1 it's possible to rename tapes without formatting. In order to rename, the tape cannot be mounted. Changing a tape's serial is not possible without a format.

Discovery Channel-Compatibility

Some years ago, the Discovery Channel created a delivery spec for LTO. This specification requires the party delivering LTO to Discovery Channel to add a specific XML file to the root of the tape. This XML file needs to be written to the index partition instead of the data partition of LTFS tapes. A specific LTFS setting is required when formatting a tape to make this possible. As this setting is not obstructing any non-Discovery Channel workflow, all tapes formatted by Canister adhere to this spec.


When delivering tapes to a major studio such as Netflix, it's best practice to disable LTO hardware compression. The Netflix-Compatibility option does just that and is available when you Format or Erase a tape.

NanoPure™️ Support

Canister for Windows does not support NanoPure tape media.

From 23.2 onward, Canister for Mac supports NanoPure tape media by MagStor. NanoPure tapes are pre-cleaned, with calibration data recorded to the Cartridge Memory after testing. Canister uses this information to calculate system health at the end of each Archive or Retrieve operation. Each Transfer Log will contain a NanoPure score: Good, Average or Poor.

In the event of a poor result you might consider retiring the tape, or contacting your hardware vendor for a thorough diagnostic check.

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